Screen Wars: How Do You Handle Screen Time?

BY  |  Thursday, Jul 30, 2015 1:00pm  |  COMMENTS (0)


My two-year-old is ob-sessed with Angellina Ballerina. And recently, Peppa Pig has been nudging her way onto our dinner table. My daughter wakes up asking to watch her shows and repeats this request throughout the day. I’m not proud of it, but she does watch too much TV.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Today’s children are spending an average of seven hours a day on entertainment media, including televisions, computers, phones and other electronic devices.” The perils of screen indulgence for youngsters include increased isolation, attention problems, decreased sleep and even forgotten meals. The Learning Habit study published last September in the American Journal of Family Therapy also found that children’s grades started to steadily decline after 30 minutes of screen time a day and that their ability to stick with a difficult task and not give up – otherwise known as grit – decreased as electronic media usage went up.

New York Times writer Jane E. Brody recently penned two pieces (this one and this one)  about the growing issue around kids and their screen addictions. “Parents are often at fault, directly or indirectly, when children and teenagers become hooked on electronic media, playing video games or sending texts many hours a day instead of interacting with the real world and the people in it,” Brody says in her second article. The good news, though, is that the problem can be fixed. I reached out to Dr. Garcia, a clinical psychologist at Evolve Psychological Services in Montclair, for some screen time slashing strategies.

Set Time Limits

Determine the amount of time you’ll allow your kids to use their devices. It’s not reasonable to expect your children to go from overindulging to cutting it out completely, says Dr. Garcia. One Montclair mom gives her kids a total of one hour a day which they usually split into two halves. “The problem is that my kids spend the time that they’re not on their screens asking me if they can play their video games.”

Another local mom has taken a more extreme approach. “I couldn’t take the fighting anymore or the non-stop playing of video games.” She hid the controllers where she knew her kids would never look.

Restrict the Time of Day

Decide on the time of day that your kids can and cannot be glued to their screens. This might look different during the summer months versus the school year, but simply having this guideline in place will make it easier to enforce when school is in session, says Dr. Garcia.

Dr. Garcia suggests getting your kids outside as much as possible, especially in the summer months. Go to the pool, visit the playground and do stuff that you can’t during the winter. She adds, “Kids will be less inclined to want screen time if they are doing something else.” At my house, this means that my husband takes my little one outside to play after dinner, before she even gets a chance to ask for the iPad.

Set Screen-Free Zones

Identify places where your kids are not allowed to use their devices. “This can range from the dinner table to grandma’s house and even during a play date,” says Dr. Garcia. To set an example, parents need to abide by this rule as well. Although it will probably be a tough wean for all of us, I think my husband and I will soon be excusing Peppa Pig from our kitchen table and leaving our phones in another room during meal times.

Use the Screen as a Reward

Some families grant screen time as a reward. For example, your children must complete their chores before turning on their screens or it’s used as a treat for doing something nice for their sibling, says Dr. Garcia. Screen time has to be earned.

One local family rewards their kids for practicing piano. “If they get 20 minutes of practice in, I’m ok with 10-15 minutes of screen time,” says this Montclair mom. “My kids also love watching the other’s turn. So, if I give them each 15 minutes, by then end, they feel like they’ve had 30.”

Dr. Garcia urges parents to remember that the right amount of screen time for your child is all about balance, and that balance will vary for different kids and different families. She adds, “There are so many variables, including a family’s culture, where they live, how they spend time together and the age and developmental level of the child.” If you aren’t sure where to start with setting screen time expectations, a therapist or pediatrician can provide general guidelines.

Photo: (Flickr)

Operation Backpack Helps Fight Poverty

BY  |  Wednesday, Jul 29, 2015 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

operationbackpack2School is just over a month away, and with it notes from new teachers listing out a panoply of supplies needed on the first day. But for some families, especially those who are homeless, the cost of pencils and zip binders and Magic Markers can be a real hardship.

That’s where Operation Backpack comes in. A nationwide initiative by Volunteers of America, Operation Backback provides school supplies and backpacks to kids in need, helping those who are homeless go back to school without feeling left out.

Here in Baristaville, Kimya Nilsen is spearheading the effort to collect filled backpacks from anyone who wants to participate. Nilsen, who said she learned about the organization through an article in Real Simple, will pick up the bags from each donor –  or buy and fill the bags if someone prefers to donate money instead – and bring it to the drop off location, run by VOA Greater New York.

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National Night Out 2015

Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015 11:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

National Night Out Save the date, National Night Out 2015 will take place on Tuesday, August 4.

National Night Out is a unique crime/drug prevention event sponsored by the National Association of Town Watch. Since 1981, towns and cities all over the country have participated in the event, which is designed to “heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support for, and participation in, local anti-crime programs, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police-community partnerships and send a message to criminals letting them know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.” It’s also a fun community event.

Here’s what local towns have planned:

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Nursing Mothers Invited to The Big Latch On 2015

BY  |  Tuesday, Jul 28, 2015 9:00am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The Big Latch On

Nursing mothers and their partners are invited to join The Big Latch On on Saturday, August 1 at HackensackUMC Mountainside Hospital to break the world record for the most women breastfeeding simultaneously in the US and beyond!

At The Big Latch On, groups of breastfeeding women come together at registered locations around the world to all latch on their child at a set time. All the breastfeeding women and children are latched on for one minute at the set time and are counted by the witnesses. The numbers are added up and we see if they can beat previous Big Latch On records.

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A Musical Journey: Montclair’s Jazz House Kids Take Peru!

BY  |  Monday, Jul 27, 2015 1:00pm  |  COMMENTS (0)


Part of Melissa Walker’s mission when she founded Jazz House Kids 13 years ago was to foster talented kids to excel musically as well as become community leaders and global citizens. Recently, that goal was realized when a group of students from the organization traveled to Peru on a cultural exchange.

From June 26 to July 4, 13 students and four adults from Jazz House Kids traveled around the country, covering tourist highlights such as Machu Picchu, Cusco and Lima, and more important, serving as cultural and musical ambassadors. The group performed twice a day at various venues around the country, ranging from a jam session at a restaurant in Cusco to a performance at the Japanese Peruvian cultural center to a benefit concert to help children in the Southern part of the country suffering from exposure to severe cold. Continue Reading

Last Chance Camps! Many Montclair Camps Offer Late Summer/September Options

Monday, Jul 27, 2015 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)


The YMCA of Montclair will offer an additional week of camp, August 31 through September 4, for kids ages 3 -6 and 5 – 13. Go the whole week or pay per day. Program fee: $52/day. After Care available for an additional $15/day. Click here to register.

In other camp news: Continue Reading

Weekend Highlights: Your Guide to Family Fun

BY  |  Friday, Jul 24, 2015 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

The weekend is here! We’ve rounded up some fun and family friendly things to do in our area.

earth to echo

Start the weekend with Flick and Float on Friday night. Nishuane Pool (High Street, Montclair) will remain open until 8:30 PM so patrons can enjoy a late swim. At approximately 8:45, Earth to Echo will be shown in the park. Residents are encouraged to bring chairs and blankets. For more information, call the Recreation Department at 973-509-4915.

You can also catch the young performers of Gas Lamp Junior in a Tale of Two Broadways. Performances Friday and Saturday night at the Ridgewood Avenue School in Glen Ridge.

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New Jersey’s History at Morgan’s Farm and Museum in Cedar Grove

BY  |  Thursday, Jul 23, 2015 9:30am  |  COMMENTS (0)

unnamed-8Around this time in the season, families start to wonder if there are any nooks or hidden corners they’ve missed in their summer explorations. Enter the Morgan’s Farm and Museum which is run by the volunteers of the Cedar Grove Historical Society. A visit here will be sure to please, and it’s only minutes away on Pompton Avenue in Cedar Grove!

On a recent Saturday morning, Jean Jaeger, who edits the Cedar Grove Historical Society’s newsletter and leads tours at the Museum, shared some interesting facts and lore about the 150+ year old farm. One item that many New Jersey residents will recognize is the transition of the farm from the Canfields, a family that famed the land and owned much of Cedar Grove for many years, to the Morgans, who moved to the farm from England in 1910. The father, James Morgan, was an advertising executive who commuted into New York City by train. Sound familiar?

A visit will interest school-aged children and adults with the clothing, kitchen tools, architecture, and family history displayed through out the two floors of the museum. Family photographs and items highlighting their hobbies and lifestyle fill the rooms and walls.

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YMCA of Montclair Dolphins Swim Team Tryouts – 2015-2016 Season

Wednesday, Jul 22, 2015 12:30pm  |  COMMENTS (0)

y swim

The YMCA of Montclair Dolphins Swim Team will hold tryouts for its 2015-2015 season as described below. Continue Reading

Where Are You Playing Now That Brookdale Park Playground Is Closed For Summer?

Tuesday, Jul 21, 2015 2:32pm  |  COMMENTS (1)

Construction underway at Brookdale Park to create new playground.

Construction underway at Brookdale Park to create new playground.

We told you Brookdale Park’s playground would close this summer so the entire playground can be replaced. The project, costing $1.2 million, is already underway.

Thankfully, there are some other cool area playgrounds to check out: Continue Reading

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